A life on mission begins with connecting. It starts by developing relationships with the people in our everyday lives. It starts by loving our neighbor. Tim Harlow writes in Life on Mission, “Your mission is to your Jerusalem. The people right around you. THE PEOPLE WHO YOU KNOW! So our mission starts with relationship. It has to start with relationship.”1
So let’s ask the question that was asked of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”
When Jesus was asked this question, it was likely that this expert in the law was looking for justification for who to and not to love.2 If you have to love your neighbor as yourself, it’s easier if certain people don’t qualify as your neighbor. While he could have been genuinely asking what Jesus meant, he was probably looking for some sort of formula for determine who his neighbor was. How many houses down? Does the person across the road count? What about Gentiles?
Instead of a straightforward answer, Jesus tells him the story that we have come to call the Good Samaritan. At the end of the story, Jesus turns the question back to expert in the law and asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
Jesus’ concern was not on who the person was or where they lived, but on who acted like a neighbor. Jesus then commands him to go and do the same. Be a neighbor to people. Don’t try to figure out who qualifies, just be a neighbor.
This reminds me of Mr. Rogers and the refrain from his opening song, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” His question isn’t will you move next door to me, but come and a friend and be a part of my world. If you’ve ever watched Mr. Rogers, you know what kind of guy he is. He cares about, listens to, and genuinely enjoys being with other people and learning about them. I imagine that he would always make time for you and not for something in return, but simply because he wanted to be a neighbor to you.
This week, I want to challenge you to ask yourself, “Who can I be a neighbor to?” Here are some suggestions:
1. Start with your actual neighbors. Just because Jesus redefines neighbor, doesn’t mean you can disregard the person next door. I would encourage you to live with the mindset of being the best neighbor someone has ever had.
2. Second, think about who you come across on a regular basis. Coworkers, family members, baristas, waiters, waitresses, etc. There a plenty of people that we are already connected to that we can show the love of Christ.
So, please, won’t you be someone’s neighbor?
1Harlow, Tim. Life on Mission: God's People Finding God's Heart for the World (Pastors.com, 2014), 55.